“Best-in-class” customer service and support is what all services organizations strive to achieve. However, many experts suggest that attaining “best-in-class” status in all aspects of customer service is – well – impossible! While one organization may be acknowledged as the “best-in-class” with respect to one or two areas of customer service – say, quick response to customer inquiries, and professionalism in the field – it may not do as well in some other areas, such as resolving the problem on the first try, or providing the best customer “fix” – even though it may have done so quickly. Another organization may be considered “best-in-class” with respect to getting the job done – but not in terms of providing adequate communications with its customers all along the way.
Even the very best customer service-focused organizations typically have one – or more – areas where they are not able to provide “best-in-class” customer support. However, whether a “best-in-class” organization really does – or can – exist, one thing remains absolutely clear: your organization – and you, as one of its primary customer contact representatives – must do everything it can to be perceived by your customers as being as close to “best-in-class” as possible.
In order to effectively move toward attaining “best-in-class” status, your organization will also need to rely heavily on the formulation, development, and implementation of what is commonly referred to as “best practices” to support its customer service operations. The following guidelines should be of some help in moving your organization closer to “best-in-class”:
1. Make it easy for your customers to voice their concerns, and your customers will make it easy for you to improve.
Nobody likes to receive constructive criticism or have someone complain about their customer service performance to a supervisor. However, if you accept these occurrences as productive ways to ultimately improve your own performance skills, then it becomes much easier to accept. As such, you should interpret every customer-voiced concern or complaint as just another one of your “marching orders” to improve – or fine-tune – your own personal customer service and support skills.
2. Listen to the voice of the customer.
Customer service leaders demonstrate their commitment to resolving customer concerns by listening directly to the voice of the customer. And you are typically in the best position in the company to do so. But, simply listening is not good enough – customers will also expect to hear back from you with any and all important information leading up to the full closure of their inquiry or call. However, by doing so, you can truly establish an interactive relationship with your customers to achieve results. By investing your time in communications with your customers, the payoff will be an easier path to get the job done – whether it is a service call, responding to a customer request or inquiry, or anything else that the customer feels is important. In “best-in-class” organizations, two-way communications – whether positive or negative – are only seen as opportunities to improve. And how their requests are handled by you will ultimately reflect your – and the organization’s – overall commitment to customer service and support.
3. Respond to customer concerns quickly and courteously with common sense, and you will improve customer loyalty.
Customers tend to “reward” individuals who are responsible for quickly resolving their problems by remaining loyal customers. In addition, they are more likely to provide these individuals with commendations or citations to their supervisors as a token of appreciation for a “job well done”. Quick problem resolution can add greatly to the foundation that you are trying to build in support of customer loyalty – and repeated quick problem resolution will all but certainly “close the deal”. It may be argued that doing the job right the first time + quick problem resolution = maximum customer satisfaction and loyalty. You (and your company) can develop the same fast track toward customer loyalty among your respective customer bases if you continually focus your attention in these areas.
4. Resolve problems on the initial contact, and build customer confidence.
A customer callback that requires two or more company personnel to follow-up will typically cost much more than a call that was handled right (by you) the first time. This is especially true when the call escalates to involve supervisors or other management personnel, or a second (or third) on-site visit. Resolving a customer problem on the initial contact can significantly build the level of confidence your customer has in your ability to get the job done. And once you earn this level of trust, it will be difficult to lose it.
5. Technology utilization is critical in problem resolution.
Your company has already provided you with a number of technology-based tools that may be used to support your ability to quickly resolve customer problems (e.g., smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc.) – use them! Typically, in “best-in-class” customer service environments, there are a multitude of tools and databases available that you can use to identify, report, monitor, and track customer problems and concerns. Use whatever tools your company has provided – as a matter of course – as support in providing your customers with quick and effective solutions. Your competitors who may have also embraced the concept of “best-in-class” customer service are already doing so, and so are the highest-performing field technicians in your own organization. You should be doing so as well.
6. Continue to acquire training in customer service and support.
Regardless of what customer service training you may have taken in the past, chances are you already need more training in order to remain effective. There are always new conventions, methodologies, and tools being developed over time to support your ability to provide “best-in-class” customer support – and if you do not keep up with the latest techniques, you will find yourself continually falling behind in your ability to satisfy your customers – let alone make them loyal to you and the company. Employees who practice the basic rudiments of customer service and support most diligently within the company tend to learn the company – and its customers – so well, that they are more likely to be promoted than those who do not. Some organizations use customer service proficiency as a formal “career ladder” for advancement in the company. And in most cases, it is the front-line employees (i.e., the ones with the most direct, day-to-day contact with customers – like you) who benefit the most from this experience.
7. Focus on getting the job done; not just dealing with the symptoms.
If routine equipment and/or customer problems are effectively resolved initially at the front-line, you (and your company management) can focus more on improving the core processes, policies, and guidelines that drive customer service performance and customer satisfaction throughout the organization. A good process will ensure that you are always capable of providing your customers with “total solutions”, rather than merely “placing bandages” on the situation. Just dealing with the symptoms simply “covers up” the visible problem, but may not resolve its root cause. “Best-in-class” companies use formal processes to, first, identify the problems and; then, to empower their employees to resolve them as quickly as possible. In this way, the current repair can be done as efficiently as possible, and any similar future calls will have a much greater probability of being performed right the first time.
In conclusion, the main lessons to be learned from approaching customer service from a “best-in-class” perspective are:
- Satisfying the customer is your top priority.
- “Best-in-class” organizations view customer concerns and criticisms as opportunities for improvement, not just as problems.
- “Best-in-class” organizations make it easier for customers to voice their concerns, as well as for their field technicians to quickly resolve their problems.
- Effective customer service and support relies heavily on customer feedback and two-way communications between the customers and their field technicians.
- Well-managed customer service and support processes make everybody’s job easier – and customers more satisfied.